10 Ways to Energize Your Meditation

Most forms of meditation, by definition, are pretty boring. If a meditation technique was entertaining or exciting, it wouldn’t be meditation! Typically, in meditation you notice when your mind is wandering and then shift your awareness back to some simple meditative object like your breathing, or sound, or a repeated phrase. This is what triggers your body’s relaxation response as opposed to it’s stress response (which gets triggered a great deal in daily life). At the same time, meditation ideally… Read more

Enlightenment Is Real

In Buddhism we have a very useful but tricky concept called, alternatively, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Liberation or Awakening (in addition to countless other terms and phrases, like seeing your own Buddha-nature). As a practitioner or investigator of Buddhism, you probably find the concept of Enlightenment enticing, confusing, troubling or irrelevant – or some combination of those. You may believe Enlightenment is real and possible, and you work diligently at your spiritual practice inspired by the hope – or driven by the… Read more

Self as Both Real and Not-Real – The Teaching of the Five Skandhas

How do you resonate with the Buddhist teaching that our sense of self is an illusion? I imagine you feel very real. You exist, and you are not the same as everyone and everything else. You move through your life with a sense of continuity from one moment, one day, one year, to the next. In what way is our sense of “self” an illusion? Once upon a time a very bold man, King Milinda, put this question to a… Read more

From Delusion to Illusion: The Freedom of Disbelief

I used to believe that life was pointless. Sure, there were enjoyable moments in life, but the hard work life required didn’t seem worth it when I saw all the cruelty and greed at work in the world, or when I contemplated the inevitability of old age, disease, loss and death. This bleak view of the world pervaded all of my activities. It drove me to a despair that, at times, led to suicidal ideation. All of us hold countless… Read more

What Is Meant By Zen “Practice”?

If you have spent any time in a Zen community, or reading Zen books, you will have encountered the term “practice” countless times. Zen ancestors and teachers exhort us to practice diligently. Fellow practitioners talk to one another about their practice: “I have been practicing 20 years,” or “I just started practice,” or “Lately my practice has been focussed on an acceptance of change.” We say it is hard to practice without a Sangha, or community. When facing challenges in… Read more

The Good Thing about Suffering

It makes me happy when someone admits they are suffering. Please don’t get me wrong – I don’t enjoy the suffering of others. Rather, it brings me something akin to joy when someone who is suffering admits it. This is because the acknowledgement that there is a problem opens up the possibility of change, as well as the profound spiritual adventure that goes along with change. (Please see the footnote about the difference between pain and suffering.) Most people don’t… Read more

Transforming the World by Transforming Your Heart

I suspect the phrase “transforming your heart” resonates with many of you, even if you aren’t quite sure what is meant by it. I think there are two reasons for this. First, we want transformation – of our selves, our families, our communities, our culture, our government, our economy, our world. Something needs to be done. Even if we are able to forget this for some periods of time because of our good fortune, all around us are reminders that weigh… Read more

The Buddhist’s Powerful Political Response: The Middle Way between Anger and Resignation

It’s difficult to figure out to respond when a large percentage of our population rallies behind a political candidate who is overtly and proudly prejudiced against numerous groups of people, who eagerly promises to respond to the world with violence, and who rejects rational discourse in favor of yelling more loudly and rudely at his opponents than they do at him. This isn’t a simple matter of opinion anymore. This isn’t about whether you lean more toward trickle-down economics or socialism…. Read more

Why Life Is Worth It

There are a lot of awful things happening in the world. If you were able to make a list of the “pros” and “cons” of life – all the wonderful and awful things – it is debatable whether the “pros” would outweigh the “cons.” At times I’ve wondered whether we human beings cling to life mostly because we’re afraid of the alternative. But then I experience something wonderful directly, without analysis or comparison, and I remember that evaluating life in terms… Read more

You Have to Be Your Own Fan (Even If You’re Pathetic Sometimes)

If your self-confidence never wavers, if you are thoroughly convinced of your own worthiness – whatever that means to you – than this essay is probably not for you. Most Americans are very familiar with self-doubt in all of its forms. We continually examine the circumstances of our lives, and the opinions of those we come in contact with, for the answers to questions like, Are we worthy of respect, esteem, love? Are we competent, intelligent, reliable, useful? Are we… Read more

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